LACONIA — Renting a boat has become a popular option for those looking to spend some time on Lake Winnipesaukee and is fueling the growth of boat rentals as a supplemental line of business for local marinas.
"We're doing great,but there aren't enough boats to go around. Just about all the marinas around the lake are renting boats these days, but there's still room for growth,” said Shawn Minor, who manages the rental business at Irwin Marine, which has locations in Lakeport and Alton Bay and began renting boats in 2011.
“Getting involved was a no-brainer. It was a good business move,” said Minor, who says he hast 10 boats available for rental in Lakeport, five bow riders and five pontoon boats.
“It's basically an eight-week season, from mid-June to mid-August. During that time practically all of our boats are rented, especially for weekends. Our rental calendar starts filling up right after people book a place on the lake early in the year. The first thing they do after getting a reservation is to call and make sure they have a rental boat for their vacation,”
He says that this year six of the 10 rental boats are new models this year and all of the boats are 2016 models or newer. “We sell off the used boats after a year or two and pride ourselves on having the newest boat rentals on the lake,” said Minor.
Irwin Marine was tempted to enter the rental business after seeing the success enjoyed by Anchor Marine Corporation, which has been renting boats on Lake Winnipesaukee for 34 years. The business, owned by Bob Andrews, spent most of that time at Weirs Beach, before moving in to the Paugus Bay Marina location at 1258 Union Ave. in Laconia.
Anchor Marine has rentals available in increments as small as two hours, for less than $200, up to a week for less than $2,000. About half of his business is for clients who rent a boat for a week.
Kelsey Doherty, manager at Anchor Marine, says the company has a fleet of 23 boats, 10 of which are pontoon boats, and has a diverse clientele which includes families as well as retirees.
Don't have a boater education certificate? Anchor Marine is a state licensed test location and can print out a temporary certification, good for 14 days.
Both Anchor and Irwin Marine can administer a 25-question, computer-based state test that, if passed, will grant someone a temporary boating certificate. The test taker must answer at least 20 of the questions correctly; if not, he or she has to wait at least 24 hours before a re-take.
Doherty said that 30 to 40 percent of their short-term rentals are to people who don't want to actually drive the boat and are willing to pay $25 an hour to hire a driver. “We have five captains on call and that's become a popular service for us, especially for people having some kind of celebration."
Charity Littlefield of Shep Brown's Boat Basin on Meredith Neck offers some advice to those looking for a boat to rent.
She recommends those who aren't experienced boaters find a boat rental that comes with a licensed captain. And she points out that those renting a boat that is over 25 horsepower will need a valid New Hampshire boating certificate or equivalent.
Littlefield says that Shep Brown's is pet friendly and allows renters to take their pets on board with them.
Boat rental places include:
Andrews Marine Service, Minge Cove Marina, Alton Bay, 875-0654
Channel Marine, Weirs Beach, 366-4801 or (888)265-0280
Fay's Boat Yard, Gilford, 293-8000
Glendale Marine Ltd, Gilford, 293-2007
Goodhue & Hawkins, Wolfeboro, 569-2371
Irwin Marine, Paugus Bay, Laconia, 524-6661
Lake Side Boat Rentals, Alton Bay, 875-5005
Melvin Village Marina, Inc., Melvin Village, 544-3583
Meredith Marina, Meredith, 279-7921
Shep Brown's Boat Basin, Meredith, 279-4573 or (866)350-7437
Thurston's Marina, Weirs Beach, 366-4811 or (800)366-4006
Trexler's Marina, Moultonborough, 253-7315
Winnisquam Marine, Belmont, 524-8380
Y Landing, Meredith, 279-5050
Cole Capano on board one of the pontoon boats at Anchor Marine on Paugus Bay. (Roger Amsden photo for the Laconia Daily Sun)